Le Claire Iowa

River Men



Watching for the Ferry
John Bloom

Compiled by Georgeann McClure

This is not a complete list  
(If you have any information on river men please add it. )

Tromley Charlie  

Capt. W.   Blair


One year I was on the Chancy Lamb Capt. John McCaffrey was on the Last Chanch.  We over took him at the head of Maquoketa slough and had to slack up until we got to the foot of the slough where there was room to pass.  Soon after Capt. John sent Charlie Tromley over to see if I was going to run the span at Dubuque bridge.  I told him that was my intention.  He then wanted to know if after my raft was entered in the bridge I would not come back and put his raft through, meantime he would cut lose, catch my raft and take care of it until his raft was through.  This was rather an unusual request but I told Charlie I would be glad to do so if it would be any accommodation.  Well the program was carried out and both rafts were put through without trouble.  It developed later that Capt. John, if he split and run in the usual way could not have gotten both pieces through before dark and would thus have lost a night’s run.  For some reason few pilots cared to tackle this span but it had no terrors for me.  Aside from the one break up I had with the Chancy I never had any trouble at this bridge.


“When Rafters Ruled’ 
Chapter 28
Jerome E. Short speaking
About Charlie Trombley

“By the way, Charlie told me this one on himself.  Before he had become familiar with the river and secured his license he used to spell his father at times and the old gentleman would trust him alone in such sections as he thought best.  One evening he was steering up through crooked slough and made the first bend all right but when facing west he followed the left hand shore and got into the slough and she began to labor.  The father rushed in and said: “Charles, where yo go wiz dis boat?”  “I am right in the channel, father.”  said Charlie.  “But, Charlie, seem to me I never see de pon il’ grow in de Chan’l”

*  Capt Tromley was Canadian


Trombley   (Tromley)  

Capt George Tromley


Veterans Winans and Tromley sail for unknown
Captain M. S. Winans, of Albany  
and Captian George Tromley, Sr., of
Le Claire Dead

Daily Times
Oct 18, 1904
Pg. 4


Captain George Tromley  

  Identified with the Mississippi almost as long as Captain Winans, was Captain George Tromley, who passed away at his home in Le Claire Sunday.  Born in Montreal , Canada , Dec. 15, 1828, he came to the United States when a small boy, settling in St. Louis .  The great river, then the home of heroes of all western boyish hearts attracted his attention and he began his career when but a small lad.  From that time until last year, when he gave up his berth as captain of the Lydia Van Sant, he followed the winding of the great natural thoroughfare from St. Paul to New Orleans, from Cairo to Pittsburg and St. Louis to the headwaters of the Missouri, reading the faces of the stream and guiding the wealth of farmers, merchants and mechanics and the lives of thousands of emigrants to their ports.

  The greater part of his life was spent as a pilot, working on the river in summer and living quietly at his home in Le Claire in winter.  He leaves a wife, a daughter, Mrs. Elmer McCraney and two sons, who have followed the career of their father, Captain George Tromley, of the steamer Juanita.  Rev. R. Pugh, of the Presbyterian church of Le Claire will conduct the funeral services at the home and the remains will be interred in the Le Claire cemetery.
--Sue Rekkas  


Was one of Best Known
Steamboat Men on the
Upper Mississippi

The Davenport Democrat & Leader
April 3, 1919  

  Capt George Tromley, 63 years of age and well known among the older river men of this vicinity, passed away Wednesday evening shortly after 9 o’clock at his home, 615 East thirteenth Street , Davenport .  He had been a sufferer from stomach trouble for the past four months and that ailment was the direct cause of his demise.  He recently underwent a severe operation.

  Captain Tromley had served as captain and pilot on the Mississippi river for many years, practically his entire life having been spent on the Father of Waters, until six years ago when ha and his family moved to Davenport .  Since then he had been employed by the Builders Sand & Gravel Co. of this city.  For 20 years Captain Tromley had charge of the St. Croix in the employ of the Mueller Lumber Company and later was connected with the I. W. Van Sant and the Lydia Van Sant.

  Born in St. Louis , Dec. 7, 1856, he came to Le Claire with his parents when a small child.  He was united in marriage with Miss Alice Laycock, Dec. 7, 1881.  His widow and one daughter, Miss Ruth Tromley, are the only survivors.  Another daughter passed away in 1895 when she was 12 years.  The deceased was a member of Trinity Lodge, A. F. & A. M.

  Funeral services are announced to be held from the late home at 1:30 o’clock Friday afternoon with burial in the Le Claire cemetery.  Rev. Frank Cole of St. John’s M. E. church will officiate.

Sue Rekkas  

Tromley Funeral
Daily Times
April 5, 1919  

  The funeral of Capt. George Tromley, late river pilot was held at 1:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon from the home, 815 thirteenth St. Davenport , with Rev. Frank Cole officiating.  Grace Huber rendered  “Jesus Saviour Pilot me” and “Sometimes We’ll Understand.”  The pallbearers from the home were A. E. Naumann, Frank Smith, S. C. Simpson and Robert Rathmann.

  The body was taken to Le Claire for internment the pallbearers at Le Claire were Capt. Orrin Smith,  Newton Nesbit, N. M. Smith, and S. C. Simpson.

   Capt R. H. Tromley, a brother and Mrs. William McCraney, sister of Davenport , were omitted from Thursdays list of survivors.

Sue Rekkas  


Robert Trombley  



OUTSKIRTS OF Dubuque , where the Illinois Central railroad enters the city.  Trainman saw him walk into the river and immediately went to his rescue.  He was pulled from the water within a half hour despite the floating ice which hindered the rescuing party.  A pulmotor was used and the men worked for sometime trying in vain to restore him.

  He was 63 years of age.  Capt. Tromley was in charge of one of the last log rafts on the upper Mississippi river bringing it to the Old Standard Lumber Co. of Dubuque.  He had been a captain on many riverboats including the steamer J. S.  

Son of  Pioneer  Pilot.  

  Captain Robert H. Trombly was nicknamed “Charlie” when in boyhood in Le Claire , Ia.    He was born in Le Claire in 1860 and resided there until about 12 years ago when he went to Dubuque and went into the hotel business.  He was on the river part of the time after he went to Dubuque .  He was a son of Captain George Trombley of Le Claire.  His father was the first man to take a raft down the Mississippi river with a steamboat.

  Captain Trombley started work on the river when a boy and was ----------(unreadable)

Former resident of Le Claire and slip a former governor of Minnesota for the Streckfus Line and also on the Blair Steamboat Line.

  Survivors are his wife Estella, who is proprietor of a hotel in South Dakota , a daughter, Helen Von Hine of Seattle , Wash. , and three sons, Arthur, Robert and Charles.

Sue Rekkas  

Capt. Trombly who took
own life in Dubuque was
well known in Davenport

Davenport Democrat and Leader
May 25, 1923
Pg. 15

  Dubuque Ia.   March 24 –Capt. Robt. H. Trombly, 63 years old manager of the Majestic Annex Hotel, and one of the earliest Mississippi river pilots and captain walked to his death in the Mississippi river late Friday afternoon his body recovered by railroad workers after it had become jammed in an ice gorge.  Captain Trombley was at a local hospital receiving treatment for nervous prostration and managed to get away from the hospital unobserved.  He was in charge of one of the last log rafts brought down the river to the Old Standard Lumber Co. of this city  

Capt. Trombley was well known in Davenport .  For several seasons he piloted the steamer Frontenac and big barge Mississippi during the period they were owned by Capt. Harry E. Winter.  His sister Mrs. McCraney recently committed suicide in Florida .  A brother Capt. George Trombly died several years ago.

  Capt. Trombly was one of the veteran Diamond Jo Line pilots and was one of the earlier raft pilots on the Mississippi .  For a time he was pilot on the old W. W.  He was a great man, well met and popular with all.  Much regret will be felt by his big following of friends on learning of his tragic death.  He lived most of his life on the Mississippi and Died in its waters.  

Sue Rekkas  



Daily Times
Le Claire Ia.
March 27

Funeral services of Capt. Robert H. Trombley, who was one of the last men to take a raft down the Mississippi river and who walked into the river at Dubuque while in a deranged state of mind and drowned himself, were held in his boyhood home at Le Claire yesterday afternoon.  The services were held at the Horrigan and Mc Ginnis funeral chapel.  Mrs. Trombly, and three sons, Robert, Arthur and Paul, accompanied the body to Le Claire from Dubuque .  Many friends from Davenport , Rock Island and Dubuque attended the funeral.

  Rev. W E. Green, pastor of the Methodist church of Le Claire , conducted the services, Internment was in the family lot in the Le Claire cemetery.

  The pallbearers were F. H. Kitchen, Harry Lancaster, E. W. Von Hein, George Hann, A. H. Dawley and Orrin Smith.   

 Sue Rekkas

Henry Twiezel    D 1924  

Sketch of Capt. S. R. Van Sant
From cabin boy to Governor
A long, honorable and successful career as a boat owner and operator on the Upper Mississippi  

Saturday Evening Post Burlington Iowa
Sept. 2, 1916  

(Capt. Van Sant speaking)  

Another time I saw him perspire was at Davenport .  We had been dropping out trying to store up work enough to keep us busy during the slack season.  We had several rafts laid up and had brought one down.  Men were as scarce as hen’s teeth and we hadn’t had more than five at one time for several weeks.  Henry Tweizel was mating and he and I were the only ones who knew how to pull a skiff, and that crew were about the limit for greenness all around.  Working all day lining up, putting on butting blocks and check-works and then picking up a wood flat to unloaded while running back at night had put us all to the back, there was one stretch of sixty hours that we had no sleep at all and Tweisel and I made up our minds to get off and rest up awhile after we had delivered at Muscatine.

Davenport Democrat
Dec. 3, 1924

  Henry Twiezel passed away last evening at 9:15 o’clock at his home in Le Claire.  Death terminated a lingering disease.

  The decedent was born May 11 1854 in Germany and came to Le Claire in 1868, where he has resided since.  He was 70 years of age at the time of death.  His wife Abbie, preceded him n death on Nov. 14, 1922. Twiezel was occupied for many years as a ship carpenter.

  He is survived by three daughters, Mrs. William Shannon, Mrs. J. Rainstadler, both of Le Claire and Mrs. Ben Hannard of Eldon Iowa; one son, Henry Jr., of Le Claire two brothers, two sisters and 11 grandchildren.

  Funeral services will be held Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock from the home in Le Claire. Interment will take place in Glendale cemetery at Le Claire. 

Twiezel Joseph 

The Daily Times
April 30, 1940 

Le Claire Man Hit by Auto Friday Dies 

Joseph Twiezel 74, Le Claire died at 6;30  a. m. Tuesday at Mercy Hospital of injuries received at 8 p. m. Friday night when he was struck by a car driven by Minian Oliver, 47, Princeton post mistress of Le Claire

  Twiezel a former riverman, suffered a fractured leg and severe back injuries”  Witnesses said he had walked across the highway 61 directly into the path of the car.

  His sister Mrs. Carolina Voss, with whom he had made his home for the past 10 years, died Friday April 18.

  He was born in Le Claire in 1864 and for many years worked on various river boats.  Surviving is a sister Mrs. Minnie Kaufman, Morton, Pa., a niece Mrs. Minnie Barth Portland, Ore., and tow nephews.  The body is at the Halligan funeral home pending arrangements. 

The Daily Times May 1, 1940
Open Verdict is Returned by Jury In Twiezel Death 

  After hearing the testimony of nine witnesses at the inquest into the death of Joseph Twiezel, 74, of Le Claire, a coroner’s jury Tuesday night returned a verdict that the victim died of pneumonia induced by injuries incurred when he was hit by an automobile driven by Minnie Oliver, Princeton postmistress, in the town of Le Claire about 8:30 p. m. Tuesday at Mercy Hospital in Davenport.

  Drs, Joseph Wolf of Davenport and c. Rosendorff of Le Claire testified that Twiezel suffered a compound fracture of the lower left leg and pneumonia developed Sunday morning.  Mrs. Oliver told the jury that she was driving the automobile in which her husband was a passenger.  She estimated her speed at between 15 and 17 miles an hur while traveling through Le Claire she said she was blinded momentarily by the lights on an approaching car and she did not see the aged man until an instant before the right front portion of the bumper struck him.  David Oliver, husband of the woman, also testified that he did not see Twiezel in the road.  He said the victim was thrown over the right front finder.

  F. D. Buchiet of Le Claire, the driver of the car which was approaching the Oliver coupe, with Richard Vance and Ewald Von Heit, also of Le Claire, testified that he stopped his car and with the aid of his companions took the injured man to the office of Dr. Rosendorff and later transferred him to Mercy Hospital.

  Deputy Sheriff Tom Carroll, who interviewed Twiezel in the hospital two hours after the accident, said the victim informed him that he did not see the car approaching.  Martin Von Hein of Le Claire told the jury that he had walked with Twiezel to the point where the victim crossed the highway.  Von Hein said he had not taken more than 20 steps after Twiezel left him until he heard the impact. He said he turned and saw his friend lying by the side of the pavement.


Van Sant Family  

Boat Builders  

                                                                            Van Sant Stone in Le Claire Cemetery  


                                                                               Van Sant Home Le Claire Iowa  



Van Sant


Van Sant  

Sketch of Capt. S. R. Van Sant
From cabin boy to Governor
A long, honorable and successful career as a boat owner and operator on the Upper Mississippi  

Saturday Evening Post Burlington Iowa
Sept. 2, 1916  

    “Of course all river men know that captain Van Sant is not a native Le Claire but he has always been so intimately connected with the steamboat and river life of Le Claire that in my mind I always think of him as being to the manor born. 

  Neither was his wife Ruth Hall a native of le Claire, although remembering her joyous participation in the social gayety of the old town during her girlhood and the deep personal interest she ahs shown for it during her mature years we feel that le Claire has a greater right to claim them both than has any other place.

  There probably never was a couple in real life who achieved the fame and the material success the have that were more free form a snobbish sense of their importance. Plain, unaffected, sociable, business like they have remained thru go as well as evil fortune. Preoccupied, at times as Captain Sam was some may have thought him unsociable but when you consider the load he was carrying you certainly must admit him excusable.

 I was not on the inside, of course but from current river gossip, there was a time when probably more than $50,000 would have been needed to put the firm on its feet.  It used to be told the Captain that he was in the habit of carrying around a five hundred dollar bill to pull on the groceryman, woodhawks, coal men, butchers and other small dealers and when they would say they couldn’t change it he would just say “Well you will just have to wait till next trip them.”

  Butcher Rathmann used to tell this on him with great gusto.  He said the Captain come running into the shop one day after he had finished icing the meat for the Silver Wave and asked if he could make out the bill for the days supplies right away as he was in a hurry but to just let the old account stand for awhile longer.  As Rathmann handed him the invoice he threw down the five hundred dollar bill and asked him to take the change out of that.  As Rathmann frequently needed change he generally kept a pretty good nest-egg on hand and was especially prepared so he just reached down under the counter and brought up a wallet and then he went back and came up with a shot-sack but about that time Captain Sam picked up the bill remarking “Oh just wait a minute. I believe I can make the change.”  And he pulled out a roll and paid it and then Rathmann walked out from behind the counter and placing his hand on the Captains shoulder and said “Now Sammie you hadn’t ought to do me that way, you can get any thing you want but you musn’t treat me like that.  Great bighearted butcher Rathmann, he carried many a man beside Captain Sam thru a tight place.

  Now at the same time that captain Van Sant was turning every trick and making every edge cut, every man on deck got his envelope.”  


Letter head for the Van Sant Navigation Co. Elmer McCraney Vice president

Van Sant Elias

Davenport Democrat June 14, 1898
Van Sant 

  Elias A. Van Sant, a brother of Capt. Van Sant, died at Peoria Saturday night of dropsy.  He was born in Rock Island Dec. 3. 1888, and his venerable parents are still living in Le Claire.  He had been a resident of Peoria for a number of years, and was one of the active energetic citizens of that place, representing the city’s claims to the M W. A. head office of the Madison head camp.

  Born in this locality 60 years ago, Mr. Van Sant was certainly eligible to the title of “old settler” early in life.  He moved to Will county near Joliet, and was ordained a Methodist minister.  He filled charges there and at Polo, Ill., and at Le Claire, this county, then became a steamboat captain on the Mississippi, and later moved to Beardstown.  The he went to Peoria and engaged in business there.  He was a very active man, a good speaker and writer.  He had a great deal of influence with the people and was instrumental in quelling the railroad riot in Peoria in 1877.  He leaves a wife and four children: Mrs. Dr. Mc Fall, of East Peoria; George R. Van Sant, Fred Van Sant and Mrs. Blanche Mayer of Peoria. 

Von Hein Ewaldt

Marine engineer
The Daily Times
Dec. 16, 1948
Pg. 14 

Von Hein Ewaldt  (Ewald) 

Ewaldt Von Hein, 72, a life resident of Le Claire, died at the home of his sister, Mrs. Charlotte Bissick of, of Le Claire, at 11:30 a. m. today following a brief illness.  A retired marine engineer, Von Hein also was noted in this area for his chess-playing, having been a member of the Tri-Cities chess and checker club and a participant in a number of tournaments.

  He was born in Le Claire Jan. 17, 1876.  surviving besides Mrs. Bissick are another sister Mrs. Dorothy Vance, and a brother, Martin, both of Le Claire.  Three sisters and five brothers preceded him in death.

  The body was taken to Runge Mortuary.

* Bearers were Roy Long, Louie Herman, Lonnie Retherford, Robert Moore, Lee Ruhf and Elmer Jugenheimer. 


Von Hein Hugo
Marine Engineer

The Daily Times
Dec. 24, 1929 
Pg. 4 

Hugo Von Hein of Le Claire Dies at Mt. Pleasant, Ia. 

  Le Claire Ia., Dec 24 Hugo von Hein, 45 of Le Claire died at the Mr. Pleasant State Hospital, according to word received here today.  The body will be brought here for burial, arriving at 8:45 p. m. today.

  Born at 8:45, in Le Claire, he was the son of Martin and Katherine Von Hein.  He was a marine engineer.

  Surviving are four brothers, Charles, Rock Island, Ewald, Le Claire: Martin, Le Claire and dick, Barcelona Spain and two sisters, Mrs. Lottie Bissick and Mrs. Dorothy Vance, both of Le Claire.

  He was a member of the Modern woodmen of America and the Masonic Temple. 

Von Hein Martin 

The Davenport Democrat and Leader
Pg. 11

Von Hein Martin 

“Martin Van Hein of Le Claire, 76 years old died at 2 o’clock this morning of heart disease.  He left nine children.  They are Dora, Lottie, Charles, Leo, Ewald, William and Hugo at home, and Martin and Richard of Seattle. Mr. Von Hein was a cawker (?) by trade.  He was formerly a stockholder in the le Claire Marine Railroad.”

Vogel Charles
Davenport Democrat & Leader
Capt Blair Recalls some of the early boats

March 29, 1931

Walter Blair
Cooks and Watchman, too

 “And I do not forget some of the good cooks we had, like Charlie Moore, John McClung, Fred Foy and Mrs. Spicer-of whose meals we never tired.  And I remember too, some of our faithful watchman who kept awake and guarded us- boat, passengers, crew and cargo-while we slept, and then had us all up at the right time to proceed in the morning.  Charles Vogel was my “old reliable” for many years. He never failed us.  (sometimes and at some places he had his troubles but he took care of them.”





Our Darling Boy
Son of
Capt. I.H. & S.E
Drowned June 2, 1881
Aged 4 yrs 3 Mos. 26 days


 Capt. I. H. Wasson  

The Davenport Democrat
May 12, 1916

Capt I. H. Wasson  

   The remains of  I. H. Wasson of McCook , Neb. A former citizen of Le Claire arrived here Tuesday evening accompanied by Mrs. Wasson and son Fred and wife and other relatives.  Funeral services were held Wednesday afternoon at the Presbyterian church conducted by Rev. M  Krotser.  A choir composed of Mrs. J. E. Smith Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Meyer sang favorite hymns.  The Masonic burial service was used at the grave.  The following brother masons acting as pallbearers.  J. L. Meyer. F. e. Speer. S E. Lancaster N. M. Smith J. M. Hawthorn and Robert Rathman of Davenport .  Burial was in Le Claire cemetery.

   Out of town friends in attendance were Dr. and Mrs. Fred Lambach, Mr. and Mrs. E. T. Parmalee and Miss Mary Toher of Davenport .

*Capt Wasson was connected with the Dimock-Gould Lumber Co. and was employed on the river.   Researcher Sue Rekkas





                                                                                                       the “ Moline        

          The “Mascot” , tow for the Moline      


Upper Mississippi rafting Steamboats”

Edward Mueller

“So in a few days I was on the Steamer “ Moline ” with Captain  Isaiah Wasson, Jerome Ruby, Sam Nimrick, and Dan Dawley, engineers and Tom Cody, Mate. ´The Moline was owned by Dimmock, Gould and Co. of Moline ILL.   


March 1, 1997  

“There were 19 men in the crew of the Moline .  The first Captain J. H. Wasson. It was reported that his successor, Capt. Walter Hunter, came ashore in Le Claire , Iowa , on a dark night to hire a rapids pilot. When Capt. Hunter was near Capt. Wasson’s home, Capt. Wasson struck Capt. Hunter on the head with a blunt instrument.  The incident was accepted as normal rivalry between skippers.”

Webb Bill

Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes
Port Byron Globe
March 14, 1935

  “Salt River is a little sluggish stream flowing into the Mississippi just this die of the town of Louisiana, Mo.  The place is noted for being home and birthplace of the original Jo bowers “all the way from Pike.” In the evening Tromley and most of the crew concluded they would visit the town for the purpose of seeing the sights and get something to eat.  Among the rest was notorious Bill Webb, who on the down trip had boasted of serving in the rebel army.  Several of them, however, entered a billiard hall, when Webb supposing he had met some confederates he began boasting of his prowess in the rebel army, but he was mistaken in his men, for two of them whipped out their knives and made for him.  He ran out of the room and down the street in the direction of the river and they after him.  They soon caught him had began slashing him with knives.  He yelled “Murder!” and the officers came to his rescue.  He felt sure he was going to die, so he made a confession to the effect that he had been a very bad man in his day.  He was sent to the hospital and it was found that he had five knife wounds on his body.  However he survived and returned to Le Claire.” 

Webb N. F.  

08-20-1870 Webb, Capt. N.F., Buried Linwood. Died from injuries on Steamer Montana.

The Life and Adventures of Stephen B. Hanks

Burlington Saturday Evening Post
“Recalling the Dred Scott Case”  

Capt. Hanks speaking:  

“I went to Galena early in the spring via Fulton and Dixon and I remember there was much ice still on the banks of the river when we first went up.  My regular season’s work was on the Itasca with Captain Webb whose home was in Le Claire.  He had come from the Ohio river at an earlier date and was rather a peculiar man in some respects but we became very good friends. He was perfectly bald and wore a wig.”  


 Wolverton Brothers
Chapter 38
E. H. Thomas

  During the time the great river was covered with raft boats the Wolverton Bros., established a boat yard at Le Claire , Iowa at the head of the upper rapids.  Joe and Wm. Wolverton came from the lakes and were good workmen.  They adopted a new and novel method for the construction of boats. They kept a force of men at work building a continuous hull 18 feet wide.  This was about the regulation width of the raft steamers and other boats of the smaller class used along there at that time.  When a man came along who wanted a boat the Wolverton’s would cut off one from this continuous hull and give the purchaser any length  desired.  The model bow and stern would be added, and the hull slid into the river where the upper works would be put on to it.  I remember that their price for a hull was $18 per running foot, built of good oak lumber.  Lumber was cheap at that time and no such figures could be made now.  Lumber has gone up to such a figure that steamboat men of the present time tell me that it is economical to make the hull of steel.  That the steel hull costs a little more, but when taking into account the expense of repairs on the wooden hull for a period of 10 or 15 years the steel hull is the cheapest of the two.   

Zebley Johnathan 

  The Le Claire Belle built at the Van Sant yard, came out in spring of 1873, and took her place in the growing fleet of rafters and held it with credit and profit for 17 seasons of steady work with scarcely an interruption.  Her hull was 127”x22”x4’; her engines 14”x4’ had been on the gun boat Benton during the Civil War.  The Benton was later used as a ferry boat at Alton, Ill. For a while then laid up, neglected and sunk in Alton slough.  Her engines, shaft, doctor (pump) and engine and some other parts were fished out and bought for $1,000 and installed on the new boat.  She had a nice comfortable cabin with four staterooms on each side, a small neat office in front and a kitchen, panty and mess room aft.  She had a skylight over her hall but the roof only extended a few feet forward and aft of the cabin.

  She was only 27 inches in draft and when running light was very fast, but loaded she was only a 7 mile boat.

  Van Sant and Son, Jonathan Zebley, John McCaffrey and R. F. Isherwood each owned one fourth at the time she was complete but Mr. Zebley and Capt. “Bob” Isherwood soon sold out to the other owners, Van Sant and Son and Capt. John McCaffrey.” 

Photo Bob Jones

zebleygrave.jpg (815988 bytes)

Jonathan Zebley
April 1890

Pictures of Glendale cemetery Le Claire


The Daily Times, Monday, September 29, 1919 

Mississippi River Steamboat Captains Who Were Once Known From St. Paul to the Gulf


  This picture was taken in Davenport during the convention of the Upper Improvement Assocaiton in 1903.  Each of the seven men on the picture were once well known steamboat captains on the Mississippi river, being known form St. Paul to the gulf, Capt. Alonzo Bryson, former Davenport postmaster, is the only one of the seven men still alive.  Capt. Bryson is now 80 years old.  Those on the picture reading left to right are as follows:  First row-Capt W. C. Bennett, Moline, Capt. Vol Bigelow, La Cross, Capt. Alonzo Bryson, Davenport, an Capt. John Lancaster, Le Claire, Second row-Capt Isaac Mason, St. Louis, Capt. Bart Linnehan, Dubuque, and Capt. W. W. Kinnert, Burlington.

Sue Rekkas

Davenport Democrat & Leader
August 12, 1917 


“Red” Schroeder of Clinton Tore things Loose on Evening Excursion 

Clinton, Ia. August 11-special

  There was some lively doings on the steamer Sidney son after she pulled out of here Friday evening with a moonlight excursion.

  “Red” Schroeder a well-known police character, started to raise a rough house. The boat policeman, assisted by Lieut. Vyles, tackled the unruly passenger and a fierce engagement followed during which Schroeder was given a good beating.  He was then locked up in a cabin on the boat but had not been incarcerated long before, he jumped headforemost out of a window into the river,

  The boat was brought to a standstill and after a diligent effort the crew rescued Schroeder.  He was pulled aboard the boat but there was no more fight left in him.  He was returned to Clinton and let go.

Sue Rekkas 

The Davenport Gazette
April 12, 1849
Pg. 3

Steamboat register

Arrivals                              Departures 

April 5

Anthony Wayne, Morrison St. Louis

St. Croix, J. J. Smith

Oswego, Smithers

Bon Accord, Bersie           Dubuque

Dr. Franklin, Lodwick      St. Peters

Dr. Franklin No. 2, Monfort

Kentucky, Ainsworth       Davenport

Dubuque, Beebee             St. Louis

Cora, Gorman

Bon Accord, Bersie           St. Louis

Uncle Toby, Mahony        Dubuque

Montaukm Morehouse

America Eagle, Cossen      Davenport

Time and Tide, Gould        Dubuque

Wisconsin, Griffith

St. Peters, Ward

Uncle Toby, Mahony          St. Louis

Montauk, Morehouse

Wisconsin, Grif


References to Le Claire men in: 

Port Byron Globe

January 31, 1935
By J. D. Barnes

  Arriving at Taylor Falls we discovered our cargo of corn had then dropped the best down near a new mill for some stabs for fuel for the boat, and right here we came very near having a very serious accident.  Tho it was only intended for a joke.  It was in this wise; the slabs were loading were up on a high bank and had to be run down to the boat on a car, and it was quite a steep grade.  Dave Carr, Ira Thompson and the writer were detailed to load the car at the top of the bank while the remainder of the crew would unload and carry them aboard the boat.  Everything worked very nicely until the last load, which we three loaders proposed to ride down on.  It was the last car and it would be so romantic-in the meantime, Jim Davenport, for a joke, had knocked out the butting block at the foot of the track, which left nothing between us and the icy waters of the St. Croix.  However, as we neared the foot of the track, Tom Doughty saw and realized our peril.  He rushed out with uplifted hands and cried out: For god’s Sake jump or you will go into the lake.” Before he had time to repeat his words we were off the car, and on she went at a lightning speed, cars, slabs and all pell mell into the lake.  As soon as Tromley realized what had happened hi says: “boys, we had better get out of here before that man comes what owns that railroad car.”  So we pulled on for Stillwater.  Davenport on being taken to task for what he had done, claimed that he was innocent, that he had no idea that we would be so foolhardy as to attempt it. Yet he would have laughed if we had gone into the lake.  He was worse scared than doughty when he saw us on the car.  He told Doughty who was standing half way up the track to give us warning that the butting block was out and that they merely intended it for fun of seeing the car and its cargo plunge into the lake.



Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes

Port Byron Globe
Feb. 7, 1935 

“We will next return to Stillwater where the writer with several other Le Claire boys had been set ashore and we realized the fact that we were adrift in a strange town that was fast beginning populated with all classes of men.  The arrival of every boat form the south brought a fresh supply of river men while they were coming in daily from the nine forests of the north and the results was the little town presented a lively appearance as most of this new population were of sporting character.  Accordingly for mutual protection, Ira Thompson and the writer agreed to stand by each other, that is, to incase one got into trouble the other was to use all available means for his rescue.  So off we started up town but had not proceeded far when we ran across Ike Wasson who was acting in the capacity of linesman for Sam Register, on old floater who resides in Stillwater and he was also shipping up a crew.  After some parley we hired to him at $1 a day, down time, and get back the best way you can.  On arriving at the raft we were greeted by quite a number of Le Claire boys, among the number were Lige Wakefield.  Lefe and Dick Boem, Bob McCall, Chris Adolph, Orrin Thompson, Jake Schuck.  Billy Moore.  The tow was not going to start out until the following evening so the time was spent in rigging up our oars, as it was the custom for each individual to attend to that matter himself, but he had to be very careful not to raise his car too high.” 

  “Among the old floaters that comprised this now I can recall John Leach, Dave Hanks, Charley Rhodes, Bill Dorr, Ed Du Prant, Ed Dunham, known as Crazy Ed, Geo Brasser.  Sam Register.  These men were pilots had to stand his watch but they did not seem to have but very little control over the men at the oars.  On one occasion when George Brasser was on watch, he called to the men to pull a certain way but the men did not understand so Orrin Thompson hollered back, “Which way.” He replied. “Oh, any way, so you pull.”


Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes

Port Byron Globe
Feb. 28, 1935

  “Arriving at Stillwater we found another raft all ready and waiting for our pilot, Sam Register to be delivered at Muscatine.  According Ike Wasson shipped up the same crew almost to a man and again the steamer Minnesota pushed us in company with several other rafts thru the lake to Prescott.  We then made the run to the head of Lake Pepin where we remained until the tow had all arrived, and while here Lige Wakefield and Dick Swalley of our crew, engaged in an altercation one day which was contrary to good discipline, and the result was they were court marshaled and sentenced to go ashore. Wakefield however, was not long out of a job for the Winnie Will, Si Bradley, captain, was lying a little below us so he hired out and remained with them most of the season.  The latter boat will be remembered by the old floaters as one of the pioneer raft boats.  She was a primitive affair; however, as he fulfilled her mission which was only to demonstrate the practicability of the steamboat for rafting purposes.” 

Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes
Port Byron Globe
March 7, 1935

  “The arrival of the steamer at La Crosse with cholera on board, had created a panic throughout the town an it was the all absorbing topic. The consequence was the place presented a gloomy appearance and I determined to shake it as soon as possible.  Accordingly, on the following day I strolled up to what was then called North La Crosse, where I chanced to meet Miles Swank and Walt Henderson, who had been working at the calking business.  They, too, had caught the cholera panic and had decided to leave the place.  So we all began to look around for a raft that was going to pull out soon, and the sooner the better for us.” 

  Johnny Malvern was only a remnant of a man, having lost an arm and an eye in his country’s service.  He was a very quiet man, though whatever he said on his raft was law.  One evening a little after dark when we were making a landing, he overheard Miles Swank making use of harsh language against him for running late.  Malvern said nothing, however, but on the following morning Swank was called up, paid off and set ashore.  After delivering our raft at Clinton, Walt Henderson and I returned to La Cross and shipped out with Ed Root.  Well say! He was a little the cleverest and nicest Pilot it had been our fortune to fall in with.  For instance if we had to work our oars very long at a time he would politely ask the men to excuse him, ad he would try and do better next time.  Nothing worthy of note occurred on this trip.  In due time we delivered our raft at Clinton, after which, Walt Henderson and I boarded a Western Union train for Port Byron and it was not long before we were enjoying Le Claire society once more.” 


Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes

Port Byron Globe
March 14, 1935

  “The crew made up from, Le Claire as near as I can remember were as follows: Pilot, George Tromley; clerk, Little Jim Davenport; cook, John Wesley, also known in Le Claire as Injun John, and he was one of the finest cooks that was ever on board a floating raft.  Tho’ to relish his cooking you did not want to see him, for his appearance was not at all inviting.  He will be remembered as having been murdered a few years later and his body thrown in the river by “Red handed Mike,” who was captain of a floating house, while lying at the island this side of Rapids City.  His remains were found and identified a little below Hampton.  The names of the remainder of the crew were Walt Henderson, Miles Swank, Hayden Franks, Bill Amonds, Tom Miller, Daniel Gallager, Ike Pinkerton, Bill Webb, who afterwards proved to be a notorious jailbird, and others that I cannot recall to mind.  When we arrived at Muscatine, Tromley was not feeling very well and he was certain he was going to have the cholera, so he employed a doctor and we remained there three days.  Tromley however, got better and we once more pulled out.” 


Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes
Port Byron Globe
March 28, 1935

  “I had been in Stillwater a little over a week and time was becoming monotonous, so far a change I thought I would take a stroll down the lake, but I had not gone far before I sighted a boat coming up the lake, and it was not long before I recognized my old standby, the Canada, so I bent my steps back to the landing for I was almost certain there would be some Le Claire boys aboard of her.  Sure enough for when I arrived there I found George Tromley, J. R. R. Lindley (known as Kentuck), Sam Hitchcock and Jo Hawthorn, pilots and about forty men, all from Le Claire.  In answer to the question “Was there anybody left in the town?” The reply was “No, Le Claire took a vomit and there was nothing left of her.”   

Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes

Port Byron Globe

April 4, 1935

  “In about a week the first tow of the season was to go out, and Sam Hitchcock and Lo Hawthorn had a raft that was to be delivered at Alton, Ill., accordingly the Le Claire boys on being appraised of this flocked them and it was not long before they had a crew comprised of our own town boys exclusively.  As this proved to be my last trip on the river aboard a raft I shall go more in details.  As before stated the tow was the first of the season, and besides the raft which composed the tow was Bob Dodds, Bill Dorr, Hank Peavy, Ed Durant and others.” 

  In the chapter preceding this one, referring to the le Claire boys, that the good people of Stillwater looked upon as tramps and bums in the spring of 1867.  I failed to mention that many of those same boys are today our most prominent river men and are numbered with the pilots and engineers.  The next boat from the south after the Canada brought another installment of Le Claire boys into Stillwater.  It appears that John Elliott, John Hanley, Fritz Peterson, Walt Henderson and Herb Rutledge, had been calking down at la Crosse, but business being rather dull they came up to Stillwater for the purpose of rafting, so the place was well represented.  You could have stood on a street corner and seen them all almost any time of the day.” 

  “The following names comprised the boys crew of our raft; John Hanley, John Elliott, Fred Peterson, Walt Henderson, Ed Cassilly, Lige Wakefield, Orrin Thompson, Christ Adolph, Dave Carr and Herb Rutledge.  On the stern of the raft were Tom Kelly, Bob McCall, Ike Pinkerton, Billie Dodd, Billie Moore, Dick and Rave Boerm, Jo River, Ike Bard, Ira Thompson and the writer.  The str. Minnesota towed us thru both the lakes all right.  The trip down the river was a very pleasant one until we reached that much dreaded “Chimney Rock Crossing.”  The river at that time being at a high stage we were in consequence drawn onto a tow head and broke our raft up somewhat.  Our pilot, who was one of the coolest men to be found in time like that, did not get excited in the least, but on the contrary he stood like a statue until the crisis had passed, then he gave orders to the men what they should do.  There never was a better man at fitting up a raft than Sam Hitchcock.  The remainder of the journey was not disturbed by any more breakups of any note.” 

  “On our arrival at Clinton a telegram was in waiting announcing the death of John Elliots father, so he boarded the first train for home.  This left a vacancy on the bow of the raft, which I was ordered to fill, and I was very glad of the opportunity, for the boys said I was pulling the hardest oar that ever cam out of the St. Croix. To tell of the truth, however, there was but two oars on the stern of the raft that amounted to anything, which were Ira Thompson’s and the one in question.  The other eight was what they called bug skimmers on the river.  You would be compelled to run to keep pace with them.  At Princeton Jim Rambo was taken aboard to fill vacancy caused by John Elliott.  Accordingly he was directed to oar which I had recently vacated and on taking hold of it he enquired who had been working it before he came aboard.  Ira Thompson who was nearest him gave the required information and this was his response:  “Well, I always gave Barnes credit for having more sense than to work such an oared as that.”  The first move he made was to raise it six inches by blocking it up.”

More Le Claire River Men  

1870 Census
LeClaire Iowa

Sherwood James 24 M W Carpenter on Boat . . Pa .
Sherwood Anna 22 F W Keeps House . . Mo

Dyer W. 22 M W Carpenter . . Iowa
William Weston 28 M W Civil Engineer . . Mass
Chase Louis 21 M W . . . S.C. .
Nicholls A.F. 24 M W Watchman on Boat . . Ohio . .
McCorty James T. 40 M W Mate on S Boat . . Ireland
 (Surname may be McCarty)
Pavey Paul 47 M W Engineer . . Ky
Webb N.F. 61 M W S Boat Capt. . . NY . .
Lang H.C. 46 M W Civil Engineer . . Pa .
Henderson W.C. 24 M W Calker . . NY
Payne John T. 65 M W S Boat Mate . . Minn .
Martin Absalom 34 M W Engineer . . Va . . .
Burn Thomas 24 M W Engineer on S Boat . . NY . .

VanHam Martin 37 M W Ship Carpenter … Holstein
. Surname may be VanHuen or VanHain
VanHam Katharine 22 F W Keeps House . . Hanover
VanHam Charles 3 M W . VanHam Clara 3/12 F W . . . Iowa

Deppe William 51 M W Ship Carpenter … Holstein X
Deppe Dora 50 F W Keeps House . . Holstein

McGran James 39 M W Ship Carpenter … Ireland
McGran Maria 42 F W Keeps House . . Ireland
McGran Mary Ann 18 F W At Home . . Ireland 196
McGran James 12 M W . . . Iowa
McGran Eliza Ella 10 F W . . . Iowa
McGran Maria 8 F W . . . Iowa

Thompson Stephen 37 M W Pilot on Boat .. . Ill .
Thompson Lavina 29 F W Keeps House . . Ill
Thompson Hannah 11 F W At Home . . Iowa .
Thompson Laura 4 F W . . . Iowa

Le Claire Pilots

Henry Horton...................................Le Claire, Iowa
Thomas Doughty..............................Le Claire, Iowa
E.P. Bartlett......................................Le Claire, Iowa
J.L. Carver........................................Le Claire, Iowa
Enock Davies....................................Le Claire, Iowa
Chas. Burrell.....................................Le Claire, Iowa
George Carroll...................................Le Claire, Iowa
John Van Alstine...............................Le Claire, Iowa
Charles Follett...................................Le Claire, Iowa
Robert Shannon.................................Le Claire, Iowa
David Nugent.....................................Le Claire, Iowa
Hugh Shannon...................................Le Claire, Iowa
Peter Quinn........................................Le Claire, Iowa
James Stedman..................................Le Claire, Iowa
T.F. Long...........................................Le Claire, Iowa
F.E. Goldsmith..................................Le Claire, Iowa
Daniel Dawley...................................Le Claire, Iowa
Joe Manwaring..................................Le Claire, Iowa

Le Claire Iowa
Raft Mates


Thos. Maley,                            Le Claire.
Thos, Kennedy,                        Le Claire.
Henry Tweisel,                          Le Claire.
Henry Massman,                      Le Claire.
John Bailey,                              Le Claire.
John Elliott,                               Le Claire.
James Shannon,                        Le Claire.
George Stenhouse,                   Le Claire  

Chapter VII
E. H. Thomas  

Boiler Explosions and Storms and the Havoc Caused by Them  

   Considering the large number of boats and men employed the loss of life was small during that period.  I shall always remember one of these explosions for I lacked about fifteen minutes of getting into it.

  The stern wheel Steamer Lansing was owned by Rambo & Son of Le Claire.  She made daily trips to Davenport , leaving Le Claire in the morning and returning in the evening.  I was in Le Claire and there met Robert Smith, a pilot, with whom I had a slight acquaintance.  I am not sure, but I think he was the son-in-law of the elder Rambo.  I was going down the river and he told me that he was to take the Sterling to Davenport on the following day for the Rambo’s, and invited me to ride with him.  I accepted the invitation and told him I would be on hand next morning at 7:30.  I was stopping at a hotel near the river and just opposite the steamboat landing.  I was up next morning in ample time, but the hotel-keeper was late with breakfast.  Myself and two other men missed the boat.  We crossed the river to take the train, and there learned that the Lansing had exploded one of her boilers while lying at the town of Hampton .  The Lansing left Le Claire that morning with 10 or 12 passengers.  When Smith landed her at Hampton the wind was hard on the shore.  When ready to leave there the wind held her to the bank, and she would not back out.  A spar was set at the stern of the boat to sparn out and the passengers were all back there assisting in the work.  Smith was at the wheel in the pilot house and the clerk in his office.  The Lansing had two boilers, and while the sparring was going on the shore, the boiler exploded, going high in the air.  Smith and the clerk, whose name, I think, was Vandyke , were killed. Van Dyke’s body was blown across the river, where it drifted across the river up to the shore.  Pilot Smith was blown in the opposite direction-out into the town.  The shore at Hampton was flat, and the wind had driven the side of the boat upon it, and it was said that the explosion was caused, not by steam pressure, but from a lack of water in the shore boiler.  The hull of the boat laying on an incline, forced all the water out of one boiler and into the other.



“May the waters that took you away, return you to me”

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